Archive for the 'Life Experiences' Category

Schmesolutions

As I approach the end of yet another year, I am once again compelled to look back on the year that was and come up with a list of resolutions for the next 365 days.

I say, to hell with that. I’m not going to make any resolutions per se save for only one. And this singular goal will apply not only to the coming year but will also serve as a life-long quest.

Be better.

I know I should come up with something I could quantify because, after all, how can I determine I’ve gotten better than I was before?

Well, I can always tell when I’ve gotten worse so it begs to argue that I’ll easily be able to discern when I’ve gotten better. Keep it simple.

Plus, I acknowledge that everything is cyclical. So if I happen to falter in mid-stride, I’ll just simply pick things back up and be better.

That’s my goal. What’s yours?

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Can I Walk Away From It?

I have 419 “friends” on Facebook. Four hundred nineteen. I am baffled as I typed that number. Last year, before “The Great Purge,” which is what I called what I did this same time last year when I deleted “hundreds of people” from my Friends list– most of whom were people I “friended” due to that godforsaken Facebook game called “Mafia Wars”– I had over 600. Six hundred!

Like many users of that popular social network, my “Friends” actually include family members, real-life friends, online “friends,” former/current work colleagues, former schoolmates, social acquaintances (i.e. people with whom I get drunk), friends of friends, friends of friends of friends. The list goes on. But, also akin to the conditions that afflict most users, I truly interact with maybe only a couple of dozen of them on a regular basis.

Such is life, you say? Of course. Then, why the hell should I have over four hundred of them saddling my account? It seems an unnecessary abundance– hundreds of people to whom I have nothing to say and vice versa. Hence, why keep them?

“You brought that on to yourself,” a good friend recently told me. Pointedly, I might add. He’s right, of course.

I thought about doing another “great purge,” and just systematically deleting people from my account, but then I thought that would seem heartless and insensitive. After all, most of these people sought me out, and I allowed the association. Simply deleting them would be the most blatant thing I could do. However, since 90% of them choose to not interact with me either, what would be the big deal? And, if they truly want to be my friend (sans quotation marks), they’ll seek me out again, right? Unless, of course, the act of deletion would make them blackball me from their “friends” lists. Am I making a quandary out of nothing?

I could make myself feel better by convincing myself that I would actually be doing those people a favor by purging them from my list, sparing them from having to see posts/updates from someone with whom they consciously choose to not interact regularly anyway. But, knowing myself, I would allow some version of guilt to overwhelm me, and I would wonder (for a long while) how many people’s feelings I may have hurt. It wouldn’t matter if those feelings weren’t hurt at all; I would still let it bother me.

Then, I thought a more brilliant idea would be create a new Facebook profile (which I already did) bearing a different, yet still somewhat related, user name. I would then strategically “friend” only the family members and friends with whom I truly want to interact frequently and genuinely. It would allow me to manage my “friends” list to a more reasonable number. Two digits, undoubtedly, and maybe even under 50. It would be very exclusive– borderline elitist– and I would summarily dismiss any “friend requests” from casual acquaintances. In other words, I would somewhat disappear from the masses.

The most radical thought I have is to just stop using Facebook altogether. After all, I’ll still have my Twitter account; not having a Facebook account would make it so that I’m checking one less thing for updates. And, if I truly needed an online venue to interact, I could explore Google+, which seems to be a promising platform for me to start over, so to speak.

In other words, I could simply delete my current account without any notice. No if’s, and’s, or but’s. It seems the most fair way to go about whittling my social (network) responsibility.

But, can I really do that? Can I truly walk away from that which I’ve built into a thriving element of my social life, however pathetic that may sound?

Day 13: The Celebration

Maria Coronacion “Nanay” Villacorta Talusan Samaniego was born on October 13, 1910 to Alejo and Paula Talusan in the small town of San Ildefonso, Bulacan, Philippines.  She was the youngest of five, preceded by four overprotective brothers.  At the age of 16, she married Gonzalo “Tatay” Samaniego, and gave him fourteen children over the next thirty years (one of whom tragically died in infancy).  Last night in Manila, nearly 150 relatives– some of whom came over from the United States and Australia– threw an advanced celebration of the centennial anniversary of her birth.

It was a fantastic event!  I played master of ceremonies, and several of Nanay’s grandchildren (and great grandchildren!) performed songs and dances in her honor.  She was very present, had immediate recognition of nearly everybody, and was very gracious as some (re)introduced themselves to her.  She teared up as she was presented with a multilayer cake, while the crowd of nearly 150 joyously sang a familiar birthday tune, and was all smiles as her remaining male offspring shared her in a dance.  The six-hour party could’ve lasted forever, and no one would’ve minded one bit.  Not the least of whom, Nanay.

Nanay tears up as she is presented her birthday cake.

For me, last night’s party was the perfect culmination to my inaugural return trip home.  It was my raison d’etre and it couldn’t have happened more gleefully than it did.  Over forty of my 56 first cousins were there– and it was just like old times!  I can’t believe I waited this long to come back to the place where it all started.  And, now that I’m hours from heading to the airport to return to the U.S., I simply cannot wait until my next Philippine trip.

There truly is no place like home.

Day 12: Pool Party

Let me get something out: I hate pool parties.   I really don’t like swimming pools or swimming or wading or generally getting myself wet.  If I’m hitting any kind of body of water, it would be to snorkel or scuba.  In fact, in the three-and-a-half years that I lived in Puerto Rico, I could probably count in both hands how many times I was in the water.  I’m not sure why I have such an abhorrence for it.  I don’t know how many pool party invitations I’ve turned down in my lifetime.  I mean, I’m a good swimmer.  I remember liking swimming pools as a child.  Hmm.  I might need therapy to figure this out.

Anyway, yesterday, the family went to Calamba City in the Laguna Province (about an hour’s drive from Manila) to meet up with relatives at a “resort” for a pool party in honor of my soon-to-turn 100-year-old grandmother.  It was awesome seeing relatives I hadn’t seen in forever.  They came up to (re)introduce themselves to me.  A lot of them remembered “that chubby kid” that they’re surprised at how much my physique had changed.  I was embarrassed at how many of them I couldn’t immediately recognize, but had instant recall as soon they told me their names.  But there were also plenty that I was able to pick out simply because their facial features hadn’t dramatically changed this whole time.  They introduced me to my second cousins (or “nephews/nieces” as we Filipinos refer to them) and it was just as weird for them to meet their “Tito Jon” (Uncle Jon) for the first time.

Twenty years sure is a long time to be away from home.

Nanay with six of her thirteen offspring

The “resort” was basically a collection of pool areas that can be rented for the day.  Our area had three air-conditioned cabins, each with six bunk beds; a men’s and women’s shower/restroom cabin; three huts with benches for seating; a kids pool; an adult pool (not too huge); an open “hall” with tables and chairs; and a prep kitchen area.  The nearly 80 people in attendance enjoyed home-cooked fare, including a pit-roasted pig (called lechon, which was the highlight of the spread).  In the six hours that we were there, we never ran out of food.  In fact, there was plenty for people to take home with them.  Such is often the case at the end of Filipino family get-togethers; it is probably why people bring tupperware to them.

Luckily, there were a number of us who didn’t come to the pool party to be in the pool, so I hung out with them, drinking San Mig Light, and shooting the breeze.  Or rather, shooting without any breeze whatsoever.  It was unbearably humid, and the few electric fans in the area did nothing to beat it.  So, at some point, we ended up in one of the air-conditioned cabins.  People who live in the Philippines without AC are masochists.  And businesses who don’t provide AC for their patrons are sadists.  Such was the case with our transportation, whose AC unit decided to konk out during this trip.  So, stuck in traffic for at least 90% in each direction, was an exercise in patience.

My second to the last evening in the Philippines was pretty chill.  My brother and I decided to have dinner at a place not too far from the condo.  It offered free wi-fi.

Later tonight, I will be the master of ceremonies at my grandmother’s centennial celebration at a restaurant in Luneta.  Hordes of relatives will be in attendance.  It’s going to be crazy and enjoyable.  I can’t wait!

Day 9: The Konyo Boy

I hung out with some former high school classmates (and batch-mates) last night, and had a great time catching up on news and happenings from the past couple of decades.  So much has transpired– marriages, separations (there is no such thing as “divorce” in the homeland), and even some deaths– that they scolded me for having been gone for too long.  Luckily, I had in my midst the organizers of the ongoing batch efforts and, most importantly, the 25-year reunion taking place in February of 2012.  I don’t think they’ll allow me to be as out-of-touch as I’ve let myself be.

My poor memory also reared its ugly head last night, as they fondly recollected events and interactions with me of which I hadn’t the foggiest reminiscence.  A couple even remembered the day or situation when we first met.  They also spoke of a teacher who really remembers me and, hearing that I was in town, expressed that I stopped by to visit with her.  (I will actually do so today.)  One in our group also reminded me of an intense high school crush, even ribbing me with the fact that she was also still single.

It’s funny what people remember, and what they don’t.

They also reminded me that I was known as the konyo boy (or American boy) in high school.  Of course, I knew this.  After all, I returned to the Philippines after having finished elementary school in the U.S.  This, they said, was likely why many of my classmates back then had concerns making friends with me, as if I wouldn’t be able to relate with them somehow.  Although I’ve always been one to have only a small circle of friends, I did feel a bit of this exclusion back then.  Many, especially those in the other classes, were also intimidated by my American-sounding English.  What came naturally to me inadvertently became a deterrent.  Even last night, as I tried desperately to speak in my native tongue, I would stumble and revert to pure English.

I’m now actually looking very forward to returning for the 25-year reunion.  Oh, the stories that will surface then!

Day 8: Got Inked! Plus a New President.

For the longest time, I’ve been talking about getting a tattoo.  I’d always wanted to have a Jolly Roger (skull and crossbones) tattooed on my left ankle, but have always chickened out on it.  Plus, I was always drunk when I spoke about it, and that’s not always a good precursor to actually getting inked.

I finally got a tattoo yesterday.  I did it for a couple of reasons:  (1) It was time to put my money where my mouth was;  (2) I wanted to do something significant for having recently turned 40;  (3) I’ve been feeling exceptionally patriotic and wanted to have a tattoo indicative of the Philippine flag.  Plus, what better way than a tattoo to commemorate this momentous trip of mine!

Art by Morbid Tattoo (Makati, Manila, Philippines)

Art by Morbid Tattoo (Makati, Manila, Philippines)

The eight rays of the sun symbolize the first provinces that went into martial law during the Philippine Revolution.  The three stars represent the country’s three major island groups– Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Here is the actual Philippine flag:

Flag of the Philippines

My country's flag.

I chose this design so that it would be easily recognizable to a Philippine national but will appear to simply be random symbolism to the casual observer.

I’m so glad I didn’t go for the Jolly Roger. 🙂

Oh, and wouldn’t you know that the Philippines would swear in a new president while I’m in town?

Day 7: A Visit to “Nanay”

Yesterday, I got to see my 4000-mile trip’s raison d’etre.  “Nanay,” which is how most of my family members refer to the clan matriarch, was still quite lucid when we saw her, but her short-term memory is failing a bit.

Nanay and Me

Me and my soon-to-be 100-year-old maternal grandmother

We had an enjoyable visit.  Her caretakers were on-hand to make sure that she made it from her bedroom and into the dining room so that she can visit with all of us at the same time.  She was reminiscing about my late maternal grandfather (whom we called “Tatay”), telling the story about how they’d met, and how Tatay’s resilience (despite Nanay’s family’s rejection of him) was what led to their union.  She said repeatedly what a good man Tatay was to her.  (Tatay passed away in December of ’07.)  It seems she is missing him lately.

I can’t wait until this Saturday, when Nanay is surrounded by hundreds of her kin.  I believe about 45 of 56 first cousins will be there.  Not to mention all my living aunts and uncles, and countless second and third cousins (many of whom I’m meeting for the first time).

It’s bound to be a great time!